Guest Post - Alex J. Cavanaugh

We interrupt round two of the WRiTE CLUB play-offs for a very special occasion -- a guest post from the Blogfather himself - Alex J. Cavanaugh.  Alex is making the rounds in support of his new release in the Cassa series, and I was able to lasso him here to my site for the day.  His topic is one that is interests me a lot, and one that I believe is a on many a writers minds.  Please make Alex feel welcome, and enjoy the post!

The Pros and Cons of Writing a Book Series

I envy the authors who plan out their series in advance. It’s no secret that I never intended to write a series. I had one idea for a book, based on an old manuscript I’d written as a teen, and I just wanted to see if I could get it published. That two sequels followed is nothing short of a miracle!

Looking back, I can see the advantages and disadvantages of writing a series.

Disadvantages:

Stale storylines – With a series, each new installment needs to be fresh. It can’t be a rehash of a previous story. There’s a chance you’re still writing but not presenting anything new or exciting for the fans.

Fan expectation – Readers can grow attached to characters and have expectations on their development. Fans envision the next step in the storyline, which might not match what you are writing.

Tied to the series – Once committed to that world, you have to stick with it to the end. Even if you get fresh ideas and want to venture into new territory, you have to complete what you started.

Advantages:

Familiarity – Once you’ve embarked on the second book, you are familiar with the characters and the world. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time.

Fanbase – Those who enjoyed the first book will be committed to buying the others. You don’t have to find a new audience every time.

Character growth – Television series are popular because we get to see the characters grow over the course of many episodes and seasons. With a series, you can explore the changes in your characters, allowing each new experience to mold and shape them.

I didn’t intend to write a series, but it’s been very satisfying following Byron on his journey. Every book has brought new adventures and challenges, and he’s transformed from a cocky, rebellious young man into a strong, mature leader. CassaStorm brings Byron’s story full circle, and I think fans will enjoy that.

So even if you think you are writing just one lone story, keep the possibility of a series in mind. After all, you just never know where it may lead you!




CassaStorm
By Alex J Cavanaugh

From the Amazon Best Selling Series!

A storm gathers across the galaxy…

Commanding the Cassan base on Tgren, Byron thought he’d put the days of battle behind him. As a galaxy-wide war encroaches upon the desert planet, Byron’s ideal life is threatened and he’s caught between the Tgrens and the Cassans.

After enemy ships attack the desert planet, Byron discovers another battle within his own family. The declaration of war between all ten races triggers nightmares in his son, threatening to destroy the boy’s mind.

Meanwhile the ancient alien ship is transmitting a code that might signal the end of all life in the galaxy. And the mysterious probe that almost destroyed Tgren twenty years ago could return. As his world begins to crumble, Byron suspects a connection. The storm is about to break, and Byron is caught in the middle…

“With a talent for worldbuilding and a compelling cast of characters, Alex J. Cavanaugh combines high powered space battles and the challenges of family dynamics to provide readers a space opera with heart.”  - Elizabeth S. Craig, author of the Southern Quilting and Myrtle Clover mysteries

“I thought the revelation was going to be one thing and I was completely wrong … CassaStorm pushes the limits…” - Tyson Mauermann, Speculative Reviews

“CassaStorM is a touching and mesmerizing space opera full of action and emotion with strong characters and a cosmic mystery.”  – Edi’s Book Lighhouse

$16.95 USA, 6x9 Trade paperback, 268 pages, Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C.
Science fiction/adventure and science fiction/space opera
Print ISBN 9781939844002 eBook ISBN 9781939844019
$4.99 EBook available in all formats

Find CassaStorm:


Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He is experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The author of the Amazon bestsellers, CassaStar and CassaFire, he lives in the Carolinas with his wife.

Goodreads 



57 comments

  1. Oops it's Hammons not Hammonds! I spelt (spelled?) your name wrong over at the Capn's blog! Sorry!

    Anyway! Hello DL, hello Alex!! I am thinking of the Narnia series - I loved the characters so much in the first book but felt very very sad when the series progressed and the children GREW UP and the oldest ones were removed! LOL!! But I guess that shows how involved I get with the characters and their lives! And of course they are real and they so exist Yes they do! :-)

    Take care
    x

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  2. Thanks for sharing the pros and cons. I agree. And I would have been so nervous thinking I was writing one book and then finding out it was a trilogy. You did a great job keeping the stories fresh.

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  3. Kitty, he'll forgive you! I enjoyed the Narnia series as well. At least most of the characters returned in the end.

    Natalie, nervous doesn't begin to describe what I felt...

    Thanks, DL - you the man!

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  4. I love the idea of writing a series. But I don't tend to stick with the same characters when I think of them, more like the same setting. If anything, that would be the challenge for me. When I set out to write a book I normally have the complete arc of a character in mind.

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  5. Great insight into the pros and cons. I'd say it's a pretty even split...thanks for sharing more of YOU :-)
    Tina @ Life is Good

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  6. Character growth is why I enjoyed writing my series. I followed different main characters in each book, but the whole cast was there in the background, growing and changing.

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  7. Good points all round. Anyone remember when writing in a series was pretty much exclusive to detective novels (or genres I know nothing of)? Now it seems that's all that comes out. Times have changed.

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  8. i think you hit it on the head, i find that i like books, films... etc. that have a common character that we have grown to love or even hate. i just need a progression and a so-so storyline to keep my interests, i am talking about films... not your books. i am looking forward to reading your newest book, i want to get an autographed copy. :) hopefully that comes off right... you are the best.

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  9. Congratulations on your new book, Alex!

    I love a good series, but I tend to find that most go on too long -- there definitely seems to be an "arc of creativity" with a series. In the early stages the characters are growing and evolving and the plots new and exciting; the middle chapters are usually the peak; and then there's typically a decline as the characters become stale caricatures, the plots retreads or increasingly outlandish, and the writing less and less fresh. It happens in TV, movie series, and books. The length of the arc can vary depending on the writer, but it always seems to happen. Because of this, I think it's better to much step away early and leave the audience wanting more, rather than to stay with a series too long and have it jump the shark.

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  10. Tony, when I started, I thought I had just the arc for one book as well.

    Rusty, it seems everything is a series now.

    Jeremy, it came off right!

    Chris, well said! There are several series I have give up on because it just became dull or a rehash.

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  11. Great post, Alex! I love series, but writers always take a risk when writing them.

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  12. I love reading series, but I haven't given a whole lot of thought to them within my own writing because I'm not published yet (I wouldn't want to "waste" the time in writing a sequel if the first is never picked up). That's not to say I haven't considered the possibility...

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  13. Series are so much fun. I plan on having a series with my latest release too. I love Alex's story of an old ms getting pubbed and becoming series. Life is full of surprises sometimes!

    Hope you're doing well DL! Sorry I've been such a Write Club slacker! Been buried away in final revisions ...

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  14. DL... thanks so much for this blog. It feels more like a "place" than any other blog I follow. You Hammonses do a great job "churning the writing pot," and I hope we get to see stuff on your own "Knight's" series.

    Alex, I came to sci fi late (as a 22-yr.-old taking my 12-yr.-old neighbor to see "Star Wars" in 1977) but that, and marrying a guy in 1981 who had Frank Herbert's "Dune" series in one of his college boxes, did it for me. I've read the genre off and on ever since. The prospect of reading a serialized space opera as the temperature drops and the days shorten will have me ordering your series as soon as I finish this post.

    I'm writing a YA dystopian speculative series. (Genre is starting to feel like an order at Starbucks!) I'm 30,000 or so words into the first book and I already understand how you can get tired of dealing with THOSE characters in THAT world under THESE circumstances and then, thank God, situations come along that cause everyone to move and change and it gets fresh again. All the points you made were salient, but the one that helps me today is staying "committed to that world."

    Great guest post!

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  15. I never thought of the challenges before Alex, but it looks like you've figured them out. Thanks for hosting D.L.!

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  16. I wish some writers (Jordan, Martin) had taken into consideration what they had started before they started and made plans to be able to finish those series.

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  17. Oh. I completely agree with fan expectation being a disadvantage for both the writer and the fan. I think this is why a lot of readers only read the first book in a series. Something, as an avid reader and writer, I do NOT advocate. There are many great sequels out there, and sometimes writers even out do themselves and the follow-ups are much better because of...Dun, Dun, Dun, character growth.

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  18. Great points about series. I like reading series but I also like them to end. I always right in series but the longest series I've ever extended a series it to four books.

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  19. Great post, Alex! I'm glad the series path worked out for you so well. I've written three novels and always kept story ideas in mind in case a miracle happened and the book was pubbed and the publisher wanted a series. So far, the miracle hasn't materialized -- but I'm prepared if it does!! Have a great weekend!! :-)

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  20. Thanks Alex for listing both the pros and cons. I am planning a series and am absolutely nervous about it. I love reading series and I hope I can do justice to it.

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  21. I like reading a series, and there shouldn't be too long in between the individual books. Or readers lose interest. This happened to me when reading Jean Auel books. I lost interest in the subsequent books which felt as if they were forced, not nearly as good as the first two or three.

    Good Luck to Alex !!

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    1. Oh my gosh ... I had the same experience with the Jean Auel books. The first one was a terrific read, but the second one wasn't as good and I didn't even finish the third one. Was it my imagination, or did they sort of morph into romance novels? (I just peeked at her Wikipedia page ... she published the latest in the series in 2011, after an almost 10 year gap. Interesting.)

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  22. I like this rundown on the pros and cons of a series. When I sat down to write Champion in the Darkness, I didn't intend for it to be a series either. It was just called The Crystal Sword at the time, and the end was supposed to be slightly different and more conclusive, but somehow while writing it, the characters had other ideas.
    I'm a little scared of reader expectations. I may not have a huge fanbase, but I've already received some suggestions from well-meaning and enthusiastic YA readers . . . suggestions I don't plan on following that closely. However, one suggestion has led me to write some backstory for a character who "needs his own book" according to three of four readers . . .so now I have a trilogy planned with some writing ideas for either a series of novellas about this particular character, or a group of novellas about a group of characters. It's kind of wild how far just one idea can turn into many ideas.

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  23. This was interesting - pros and cons I've never thought of. I have liked watching Byron grow - still waiting for Athee to visit another galaxy for a while, so I can get a more personal look.

    Thanks, DL and Alex.
    xoRobyn

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  24. Tiana, you can always make a series later like I did.

    PK, it is!

    RT, thank you! And if you keep making it fresh, you will remain committed to your world. Keep writing!

    Andrew - Amen!!!

    Christine, I know mine improved.

    Lexa, it will!

    DG, that's why I ended at three books - any more would be forcing it.

    Tyrean, you'll pull it off. And you can't please everyone so don't worry about it.

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  25. I love the idea of series books, but you also have a great point about fighting against expectations and staleness. Its great to get a peep into the inner thoughts of authors. Thanks so much for sharing and congratulations on your release! :)
    Edge of Your Seat Romance

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  26. I suppose I would have to read the second Cassa book to know if the series continues to improve. I'm presently enjoying the first book.

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  27. I very rarely read series, so this was interesting. I've never even considered writing one!

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  28. Currently wrapping up edits on my first book I also wrote or at least started as a teenager. But this will be a series too. And like you, I have no clue what the next books will be. It'll be interesting to see what my mind creates!

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  29. Rachel, not much inner thought, but I shared what I had!

    Stanley, thanks for reading the first one! Judging from reviews (and not just my opinion) I did improve.

    Kate, until my first book came out, I hadn't either!

    Tammy, have fun figuring it out!

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  30. I've found, for me at least, the secret to writing a series is to write on complete story, then split it up into three books and end them with a natural breaking point.

    A trilogy is never easy. But you did it Alex. Congrats! and best wishes for a smashing success!

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  31. It is tricky to come up with a fresh plot for each book of a series. I know with my own chapter book series, I'm banging my head trying to figure out a good story line for book 6.

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  32. I love when I find a series that excites me and leaves me wanting more. But you are right, each book needs to be able to stand on it's own worth and not just be a copy of previous ones.

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  33. I love reading a good series! Not sure how to pull off writing one but I love them lol. Great Pro's and Con's, Alex ;)

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  34. These are excellent tips, Alex, and something I've been thinking about a lot as I prepare to write a fantasy book that I hope will be a series! I like the idea of having a world you can revisit, and having readers who are familiar with it. But your disadvantages make a lot of sense too. Definitely some food for thought here!

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  35. Stephen, I didn't think that far ahead.

    Julie, you just never know where that book will take you.

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  36. Where am I? Oh yes, I know this site :) I think the fact that you, Alex, the reluctant writer, not only finished one, but now the series has reached number three, will inspire those who still have the dream.

    And hello, DL.

    Happy weekend and in my usual discreet act of altruism, I share this posting.

    Gary

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  37. So, are you going to write a spin-off series now about Bassan (my favourite character)? ;)

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  38. I'm working on a series, too... just not sure if my characters know that yet :)

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  39. Hi DL hope you and the Mrs have a happy weekend!

    Nicely done Alex! I enjoyed your pros n cons-great stuff.

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  40. Great guest post Alex, thanks DL for giving Alex the oppourtunity to be a guest.
    Yvonne.

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  41. Thank you, Gary.

    Lynda, he would be my first choice.

    Mark, mine didn't!

    Ella and Yvonne, thanks!

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  42. I love a good series. When I meet a great character, I always want to know what happened next. In high school, I read Tolkien's Silmarillion to find out what happened to Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli. I'm glad you stuck with it. Byron is a really good character and I can't wait to read his last installment.

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  43. I LOVE TO READ SERIES!!! To explore a town, a country, a world, an universe together with characters who develop and need to explord themselves embedded in adventures and long story arcs.
    I think it is up to the author to decide how long a series will take. Sooner or later the reader will discover whether there is still something to tell or not.
    Anyway I'm totally happy that Alex returned two more times to the Cassa universe because he had more to tell.

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  44. Another great post in Alex's book tour. I've really enjoyed learning about the process, the world, the genre and Byron. Thanks for hosting, DL!

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  45. Great thoughts! I'm not really a series writer, and that worries me sometimes. Maybe if I start thinking in terms of character growth that could change things up a bit.

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  46. I really enjoy a good series. I like that long-term investment. Interesting Pro/Con list.... I have noticed that really prolific writers are able to continue to write series installments AND write another novel mixed in (totally unrelated). That blows me away.

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  47. Thanks, Words!

    Edi, thanks - didn't think I did, but Byron's story continued.

    Kristen, it might.

    Robin, amazes me!

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  48. Thanks for sharing Alex!
    Writing a series sounds so... daunting!

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  49. Hi Don and Alex .. wise words and I just have this feeling I'm going to enjoy books 2 and 3 - so pleased the series is all wrapped up and published - congratulations. Writing a series (short) seems sensible - if that's the way the characters take you .. yet some people just love reading book after book in the same ongoing series ... not sure I do - I get bored! Three is great as I can follow their lives ... looking forward to the reads ...

    Cheers and happy writing to you both .. Hilary

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  50. Nice list of the pros and cons, Alex! I have a YA series in my head. I'm just positive it would work. But a little nervous at such a huge task as that. Yours were absolutely so well written. I'm not sure I could do it. I'm going to attempt it though. Learning from this list. Character growth through each story sounds like so much fun. That is the morsel that tempts me.

    Hey DL!! *waves*

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  51. Michelle, it is!

    Hilary, hope you enjoy the next two. I agree - too many and the series just loses steam.

    Robyn, please! If I did it, then you can do it better.

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  52. These are valid points that Alex points out. I know I worry about stale story lines, but so far I'm feeling confident. Thanks for sharing.

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  53. Thank you, DL and Alex! This really gives me more to think about as I get ready to plot my own trilogy. Looking forward to reading CassaStorm!

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  54. Toinette, you can do it!

    Thanks, Jamie.

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  55. Great post Alex! I've always wanted to try a series myself - I guess it's a holdover from loving Tolkien. Worldbuilding seems like so much fun!

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